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Planning a trip to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah? We can help. This ultimate Arches National Park guide includes everything you need to know before you go including recommendations for things to do in the park and Moab, lodging, top hikes and more.

Arches National Park Fun Facts

  • Arches National Park contains the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. 
  • Over 1.5 million people visit the National Park each year and it is notoriously overcrowded.
  • The longest arch in Arches is over 300 feet wide.
  • Arches and the surrounding area were once home to an ancient sea. Marine fossils are still visible in the area.
  • The biological soil crust found in Utah’s high desert is a living organism comprised of mostly cyanobacteria or blue-green algae.
  • This knobby crust traps water and nutrients required for the survival of local plants.
  • The biological crust may take up to 50 years to fully develop but can easily be killed by foot traffic.
  • Arches is an International Dark Sky Park and is a great location to see the Milky Way in the night sky.
viewing the night skies are a great thing to do at arches national park

How many arches are in Arches National Park?

I was intrigued when I learned there are over two thousand documented arches within Arches National Park.

Around every corner in the park is another breathtaking example of Mother Nature’s architecture set in the red rocks.    What makes this area so great for arch development?

Why are there so many Arches in Utah?

Millions of years ago, the area was covered in other layers of rock that have since eroded revealing the infamous sandstone. The porous Entrada sandstone, in Moab, is composed of almost spherical grains which result in small spaces of air around each grain.  This porous rock is highly susceptible to erosion.

The 8-10″ of annual rainfall drips into the tiny space around each grain and dissolves the calcite binding the sandstone together.  NPS describes this process as rotting the rock from the inside out and I can’t imagine a better description.

First, the erosion causes ripples in the surface which eventually deepen to accentuate “fins”.   After many more years of erosion, some of the interior sections of these fins will wear away resulting in an arch.  

Fun fact, courtesy of the Gypsy Guide app, arches are carved into stone by water from above eroding the stone but bridges are caused by water from below eroding the stone.

Additionally, the low earthquake risks in the area have allowed these delicate geological features to remain intact for millions of visitors’ enjoyment, year after year.

moon set at broken arch in arches national park

Where is Arches National Park?

Arches National Park is located in southeastern Utah in the small town of Moab.

How to get to Arches?

Most people get to Arches by driving but it is possible to get to start the journey at an airport.

The closest cities to Moab are Salt Lake City, Denver and Las Vegas. Each is home to an international airport. They are each a great option for visiting other amazing National parks on your Arches trip.

Keep in mind the Moab airport only services smaller planes so you may struggle to find a direct flight.

Salt Lake City is located 233 miles north of Moab and Arches National Park. This location would allow a tour of the Utah Mighty 5 including Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef. We loved our time in Grand Staircase Escalante and Red Canyon so don’t miss these less crowded Utah treasures.

Denver is located 350 miles east of Moab and Arches National Park. This would provide a great chance to combine a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and Mesa Verde with some of the Utah National Parks.

Las Vegas is located 450 miles west of Moab and Arches National Park. This would be great for including Zion, Bryce, Grand Staircase Escalante, Red Canyon and possibly the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

view on devils garden trail arches national park

What is Moab Utah known for?

Moab is known as an outdoor playground full of off-roading, mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking opportunities for all skill levels.

Moab Utah is home to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park.

off roading is really popular in moab and near arches

When is the best time to visit Arches National Park?

Autumn and Spring are the best time to visit Arches. Unfortunately, it is also the most crowded time because everyone else wants good weather.

The most popular season at Arches is between April and October.

What is the best month to visit Arches National Park?

The best month to visit Arches would be April, May, September or October. The weather in Moab is mild during these months. And most schools are in still session so crowds will be slightly smaller.

Based on my observations during our April and October visits, the park is crowded at midday and the most popular trailhead parking lots are normally full.

It is best to visit either early morning or late afternoon to find parking. Check out How to Avoid Crowds at Arches National Park for more ideas during peak season.

Arches National Park Weather

We enjoyed the mild Moab temperatures in April and again in October. The daytime highs ranged between the 50s and 70s degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity is very low in Utah so the high 70s are still very comfortable for outdoor activities.

Winter in Moab gets too cold for our Southern blood with occasional snow. Nighttime temps dip below freezing regularly. It would be great if you enjoy the cold weather.

Summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The extreme heat limits daytime outdoor activities.

snow at delicate arch in arches national park

What do I need to know before going to Arches National Park?

A few things to know before you go to Arches:

  • There are no services in the park (food or lodging). Water is available at the visitors center and campground. Otherwise, plan to bring food and drinks with you.
  • Devil’s Garden Campground is located 18 miles north of the entrance gate. Flush toilets and drinking water are available at the campground. Sites are paved with fire rings and tables.
  • The town of Moab is located 5 miles from the park entrance but wait times to get back into the park can get very long.
  • Reservations are required between April and October.
  • Delicate Arch is the most popular trail and parking is limited. Sunset is the most popular time.

Lodging in Moab near Arches

The most affordable lodging option in Moab near Arches is camping. Check out Arches National Park Camping: Options from Free to Luxury in Moab for a complete line up including the TOP 5 FREE campsites in Moab.

Moab is also home to hundreds of short-term rental lodging including national chain hotels like La Quinta and Comfort Suites, mom & pop hotels and vacation rentals. Many campgrounds also offer vacation rentals including cabins, yurts and RVs.

Booking.com

Do you have to pay to get into Arches National Park?

Arches National Park charges entrance fees so you do have to pay to get in. If you have an America the Beautiful pass, admission for one vehicle and up to 4 adults are included.

Be sure to check out America the Beautiful National Park Pass: Is it Worth it and Will it Save You Money to see if you qualify for a free or discounted pass.

devils garden at arches national park

Do I need a reservation at Arches?

In 2022, Arches National Park implemented a timed entry reservation system to limit crowds. Most park visitors between April 3 and October 3 must have advance timed-entry reservations to visit Arches.

Who needs reservations at Arches?

All visitors to Arches between 6 am and 5 pm during peak season, April and October, need a timed entry reservation. Any vehicle without reservations will be turned away at the park gate.

How to make entry reservations for Arches

Timed entry reservations for Arches can be made on recreation.gov for a $2 service fee per vehicle. The $2 service fee is in addition to entrance fees or annual park pass fees.

How to get into Arches without a reservation

There are a few exceptions to getting into Arches National Park without a reservation when they are using the timed entry system.

Visitors who arrive before 6 am or after 5 pm, do not need a timed entry reservation for Arches.

Additionally, there is an off-road trail that leads into a secret back entrance of Arches National Park. It’s not really a secret and is common knowledge among locals.

Willow Springs Road leads into the park, near the Windows section, and bypasses the front entrance of Arches.

Reminder: All park visitors are responsible for paying admission fees so don’t forget your National Park Pass.

If you’re wondering if a National Park Pass is worth it, check out our summary.

Make the Most of Your Arches National Park Visit

I recommended Gypsy Guides to maximize your time in National Parks, especially Arches National Park.   Our visit to Arches National Park was so much better with our Gypsy Guide app telling us stories and guiding us around the park.   

The app is available for Android and iPhones.   Price ranges from free to $15 depending upon the area being covered.   I don’t normally pay for phone apps but Gypsy is the one exception.

How much is Gypsy Guide?

We purchased Gypsy Guide Apps for every National Park we visited during our first year of full-time RV living. They don’t have guides for all parks so I think we spent $30 total for many days of entertainment and guidance. The best part is we have re-used several park guides with no problems on second visits even years later.

Individual park guides, like Arches, usually cost around $10 but bundles with more than one park are a better value. A few bundles to consider are the Arches and Canyonlands combo or the Utah Mighty 5 Bundle which includes Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion.

What is included in Gypsy Guide?

If you plan to visit more than just Utah National Parks, consider the All US West Bundle. It costs a bit more than a single park but is much less expensive than buying each individually. Gypsy Guides All US West bundle includes lifetime access to guides for:

  • Arches and Canyonlands in Utah
  • Big Sur and the Pacific Coast Highway in California
  • Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Badlands, and Devils Tower in South Dakota
  • Capitol Reef in Utah
  • Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park in Montana
  • Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona
  • Grand Canyon West including Hoover Dam, Red Rock and Las Vegas
  • Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
  • Yellowstone and Grand Teton
  • Sedona, Arizona
  • Yosemite
  • the Zion and Bryce combo to round out the Utah Mighty 5

Arches and Canyonlands Gypsy Guide

The Arches and Canyonland combo was $9.99 in 2019 (now $12.99 in 2022) and worth every penny.  The app uses the phone GPS (no cell reception needed) to play short audio clips as you approach new attractions.   

Is Gypsy Guide worth it?

Gypsy tells you the best places to stop for pictures, animal sightings, sunrise/sunset views, and what each hike offers.  You will not miss any highlights of the park if you have the Gypsy Guide.   Honestly, Gypsy is priceless and makes our National Parks trips exponentially better.  

It makes our trips feel less like aimlessly wandering through National Parks wondering if we missed something amazing down that last road and more like exploring a professionally curated list of the best attractions.

Plan Your Visit to Arches

Arches National Park can entertain visitors for hours or days so we’ll help you plan your visit with simplified recommendations.

If you only have one day in Arches, I’d recommend packing a cooler of food and beverages so you can make your visit count.

There are no services (food or lodging) in Arches National Park so come prepared.

What can you not miss at Arches National Park?

  • Visitor Center
  • Delicate Arch
  • Balanced Rock
  • Windows Section including Double Arch
  • Landscape Arch
primitive loop of windows trail at arches

Can you just drive through Arches National Park?

You can absolutely just drive through Arches National Park if you don’t want to hike. Driving Arches Scenic Drive is a great thing to do at Arches National Park. The road is easy to follow and there are few opportunities to get lost.

Remember you’ll need to pay an entrance fee or present your National Park Pass to visit Arches. If visiting between April and October, you’ll also need a timed entry reservation between 6 am and 5 pm.

If just driving through the park, you will not get as close up with many of the park attractions but it’s much better than not visiting at all.

Several arches and unique rock formations can be viewed from roadside viewpoints. The visitor center also offers educational displays and a park video to enrich your visit.

If you are just driving thru Arches, I would highly recommend purchasing the Arches self-guided driving tour by Gypsy Guides to keep you entertained and educated. The app also offers details about the most worthwhile viewpoints so you don’t waste time stopping at each one.

What is the best way to see Arches National Park?

The best way to see Arches is to mix driving with hiking or walking at different times of the day. Sunrise and sunset offer completely different views of the park.

I enjoy splitting our national park visits into multiple half days rather than a single exhausting day.

kara at arches national park entrance sign

How long do I need in Arches National Park?

I recommend dedicating at least one full day or two half days to Arches National Park to allow yourself to enjoy it without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.

You need at least 2 hours in Arches National Park to briefly see the park highlights.

If you want to do any hiking (beyond short walks) or exploration, you’ll need at least 4 hours at Arches.

What to do if you have 2 hours at Arches:

  • Stop at the Visitor Center to learn about the formations and history of the park.
  • Drive to the Windows Section to see some of the largest arches in the park.
  • Drive to Delicate Arch Viewpoint to see Utah’s most famous arch from a distance.
  • Stop at the main Delicate Arch trailhead to check out the historic Wolfe Ranch and some impressive petroglyphs near the trailhead.
  • Take a short hike if time allows.
petroglyphs near delicate arch are a great thing to do at arches
Hiking Recommendations at Arches if you have 2 hours (choose one):
Kara on devils garden trail arches national park

What to do if you have 4 hours or a half-day at Arches:

  • Stop at the Visitor Center to learn about the formations and history of the park.
  • Drive the entire park road and check out each viewpoint.
  • The Windows Section is a great stop to see some of the largest arches in the park.
  • If you aren’t hiking to Delicate Arch then drive to Delicate Arch Viewpoint to see Utah’s most famous arch from a distance.
  • Stop at the main Delicate Arch trailhead to check out the historic Wolfe Ranch and some impressive petroglyphs near the trailhead.
  • Try stargazing at Panorama Point or The Windows if your schedule allows.
  • Take a longer hike if time allows.
Hiking Recommendations at Arches if you have 4 hours (choose one):
  • Conquer more than one of the shorter trails recommended above such as Windows Loop, Delicate Arch or Sand Dune Arch/Broken Arch combo.
  • The Devils Garden Primitive Loop trail offers a lot of payoff with a chance to see eight unique arches in 7.5 miles. It can be challenging if you have a fear of heights but conquering it was the highlight of my first visit.
  • The Tower Arch is one of the least visited arches in the park because it’s located down an unpaved road in the remote Klondike Bluffs section of the park.
  • For more trail details check out Complete Hiking Guide to Arches National Park: Trail Recommendations for Beginner to Advanced
steep cliff devils garden arches national park

What to do in Arches National Park in one day

  • Stop at the Visitor Center to learn about the formations and history of the park.
  • Drive the entire park road and check out each viewpoint.
  • The Windows Section is a great stop to see some of the largest arches in the park.
  • If you aren’t hiking to Delicate Arch then drive to Delicate Arch Viewpoint to see Utah’s most famous arch from a distance.
  • Stop at the main Delicate Arch trailhead to check out the historic Wolfe Ranch and some impressive petroglyphs near the trailhead.
  • Try stargazing at Panorama Point or The Windows if your schedule allows.
  • Take a few hikes.
Hiking Recommendations at Arches if you have one day
  • Conquer more than one of the shorter trails recommended above such as Windows Loop, Delicate Arch or Sand Dune Arch/Broken Arch combo.
  • The Devils Garden Primitive Loop trail offers a lot of payoff with a chance to see eight unique arches in 7.5 miles. It can be challenging if you have a fear of heights but conquering it was a highlight of my first visit.
  • The Tower Arch is one of the least visited arches in the park because it’s located down an unpaved road in the remote Klondike Bluffs section of the park.
  • For more trail details check out Complete Hiking Guide to Arches National Park: Trail Recommendations for Beginner to Advanced
landscape arch arches national park

Top 5 Hikes at Arches National Park

There are several hikes at Arches National Park but a few are more popular than all the others. We’ll share the top 5 hikes based on the crowds we experienced.

Be sure to check out Hiking Arches for more trail detail including our experiences on the Devil’s Garden Loop.

The top 5 hikes (based on popularity) at Arches National Park are:

  • Delicate Arch
  • The Windows
  • Landscape Arch at Devil’s Garden
  • Balanced Rock
  • Double Arch at the Windows
hike over rock fin devils garden arches national park

What is there to do around Arches National Park?

Arches National Park is located in Moab Utah and there is a lot to do around the area.

What to do when Arches is full?

Moab is full of things to do when Arches is full. The top attractions when Arches is full are downtown Moab shopping, dining, Lions Park riverwalk greenway, off-roading, mountain biking or hiking.

Downtown Moab is full of cute shops, galleries, bookstores and restaurants that are calling to be explored.

Lions Park in Moab has an amazing playground and a nice paved multiuse trail leading to Arches and the town of Moab. It is great for walking, running or biking. I recommend exploring the riverwalk section for great canyon and river views.

biking is popular in moab near arches

Off-roading, mountain biking and hiking trails criss-cross the entire county. Nearly all of them are located on public lands and are open to the public without any entrance or parking fees.

Offroading in Moab

Rental Jeeps and bicycles are available at multiple shops in Moab. Expect to pay at least $300 for a Jeep and $50 for a bike.

We enjoyed joining off-roading trips with friends on the Mashed Potato trail in the Klondike Bluffs area and the Schafer Canyon Road.

schafer canyon road near arches is popular off road route
Schaffer Canyon (Photo Credit: @herethengone)
Hiking when Arches is Full

Hiking to Corona Arch is a very popular activity around Arches when the park is full. The massive Corona Arch is spectacular. Plus, the trail is fun. It includes a cabled section with footholds carved into a steep wall of sandstone.

corona arch is a popular hike near arches national park

Highlights of Arches National Park 

Arches National Park is a bucket-list destination in Moab, Utah. The highlights of the park are the arches but more specifically Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch and The Windows. A combination of driving and hiking is a great way to experience the park.

Remember to save this Ultimate Arches Park Guide to help plan things to do on your next trip to Moab.

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